May 11, 1998


Lunch box classes enrich student learning


photo by Deborah Stone   

First graders Brenna Cully (l.) and Hadley Gunnell

  by Deborah Stone
Features writer

   To provide alternatives to the usual outdoor lunch recess, especially during the rainy and wet winter months, Hollywood Elementary School parents have created a variety of classes called "Lunch Box Projects." These classes are offered and taught by the parents themselves, as well as by members of the local business community. According to parent Louis Mendoza, one of the program's organizers, participation has been very high with over a third of the students signing up to take a class. "We've offered a wide range of topics to appeal to kids' interests," says Mendoza.
   The classes have included Animal Knowledge and Pet Care, taught by Susan Cona of Petco, Games Galore, taught by Joseph Miller of Games Plus, Basic First Aid, Creative Movement, Building a Doorbell, Cool Mask Making, Super Rubber Stamping, Crocheting for Beginners, Hair and Nails Extraordinaire, Sewing for Beginners, No Bake Cooking and Candle Making.
   The feedback from these Lunch Box Projects has been overwhelmingly positive. Principal Michele Williams says, "They've enriched our students in ways that are outside of what we do in the normal school day and they've helped involve parents who have talents and skills to share." She adds, 'We've created closer ties with the general community and found ways to involve businesses which is great! Everything has been parent-driven and parent-organized with the results being that the kids absolutely love it!"
   At a recent meeting of the No Bake Cooking class, parent/teacher Rebecca Harrigan, a former professional baker, was working with a group of first through third grade girls. After washing their hands and tying on their aprons, the class began creating delectable Dinoshmores, a sweet treat of dinosaur grahams, marshmallows, chocolate chips, frosting and decorative candies. There was some sampling of the treats along the way, but all of the girls opted to wrap their finished products in foil to save for an after school snack. The group's consensus regarding the class was very positive.
   First grader Natalie Grant said, "I like cooking and it's fun to do it at school." Maggie Wagner, another first grader responded, "I really like this because we get to make good treats." The No Bake Cooking class meets for multiple sessions and according to Harrigan, the recipes are fairly simple and require few appliances. In the past, the class has made such treats as rice crispy squares, caramel turtles and dirt cake. Hariigan came up with the class idea and offered to teach it because she feels it's fun and rewarding to work with the kids.
   "It's a way for me to be involved in my daughter's school and to have contact with the kids, plus it's so enjoyable." With such a favorable response to the Lunch Box Projects, parents are planning to continue them next winter, when the rains resume again.
   Recipe for Dirt Cake
   from Rebecca Harrigan
   1 pkg. of cream-filled chocolate cookies
   1/4 cup butter or margerine softened at room temperature
   8 oz. cream cheese softened
   1 cup confectioner's sugar
   1 tsp. vanilla flavoring
   4 pkgs. instant chocolate pudding
   6 cups milk
   4 1/3 cups frozen whipped topping
   15 gummy worms
   Put cookies in blender and process until they become fine crumbs. Set aside. Put margerine/butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Beat on low speed first and then on medium speed until smooth. Add the chocolate pudding packs and milk to bowl. Beat on low to combine. Fold whipped topping into pudding mixture with rubber spatula. Assemble in an ungreased 9x13 inch pan or large flower pot in layers as follows: 1st layer: 1/3 cookie crumbs; 2nd: 1/2 pudding mix; 3rd: 1/3 cookie crumbs; 4th: 1/2 pudding mix; 5th: 1/3 cookie crumbs.
   Tuck ends of gummy worms in cookie "dirt." Be sure to have a worm on each piece. Store in fridge. Chill for at least 3 hours before serving. Cut into 15 squares or serve with a clean garden trowel if using a flowerpot.